Rail ad­vo­cate Lang­more named to toll road board

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Ben Wear bwear@states­man.com

John Lang­more, part of a Cap­i­tal Metro board that helped sta­bi­lize the tran­sit agency sev­eral years ago when its fi­nances, lead­er­ship and rep­u­ta­tion were at a low point, now will join the board over­see­ing the Cen­tral Texas Re­gional Mo­bil­ity Author­ity.

Travis County com­mis­sion­ers, who get three ap­point­ments to the toll agency’s board, voted Tues­day to name Lang­more, a lawyer and trans­porta­tion con­sul­tant, to the board. They also reap­pointed real estate lawyer David Arm­brust, who has served on the mo­bil­ity author­ity board since 2012. The vote in each case was unan­i­mous.

Lang­more, a vo­cal sup­porter of tran­sit and pas­sen­ger rail in par­tic­u­lar, will re­place eco­nomic con­sul­tant Charles Heim­sath, who has been on the author­ity board for eight years. The change takes ef­fect Thurs­day.

Both Lang­more and Arm­brust will serve two-year terms on the seven-mem­ber mo­bil­ity author­ity board, which also has three mem­bers ap­pointed by Wil­liamson County and a chair­man ap­pointed by the gover­nor. The term of Travis County’s third ap­pointee, Nikelle Meade, does not end un­til next year.

The mo­bil­ity author­ity, un­der agree­ments with TxDOT, op­er­ates four toll­ways in Cen­tral Texas and has two more un­der con­struc­tion. But County Judge Sarah Eck­hardt noted that the 2001 state law al­low­ing the cre­ation of mo­bil­ity au­thor­i­ties em­pow­ers them to spend money on trans­porta­tion modes other than tolls, in­clud­ing tran­sit.

The agency al­lows tran­sit buses to run toll-free on its roads, and has built bike and pedes­trian paths on each of its high­way projects (though only on parts of North MoPac Boule­vard). But mo­bil­ity author­ity of­fi­cials have been un­en­thu­si­as­tic about shoul­der­ing the con­sid­er­able cost of build­ing park-and-ride lots for sub­ur­ban bus rid­ers near its high­way projects.

“John Lang­more will pro­vide the con­fi­dence the CTRMA needs to reach be­yond toll roads,” Eck­hardt said in a text, “to move peo­ple and goods in ev­ery man­ner — cars, buses, trains, even air­ports.”

Com­mis­sioner Brigid Shea, who has crit­i­cized the board as be­ing too heav­ily tilted to­ward real estate in­ter­ests, moved Tues­day to ap­point for­mer Rolling­wood Alder­woman Amy Pat­tillo. Pat­tillo had served on a ci­ti­zen com­mit­tee in­volved with the de­sign of po­ten­tial toll lanes on South MoPac and had raised ob­jec­tions on be­half of her small city about raised bridges planned for the high­way as it passes Bee Cave Road and Rolling­wood.

The Pat­tillo ap­point­ment dead­locked 2-2, with Com­mis­sioner Jeff Trav­il­lion join­ing Shea, and Com­mis­sion­ers Ger­ald Daugh­erty and Mar­garet Gómez op­posed. Eck­hardt ab­stained.

Then Gómez nom­i­nated Lang­more. Shea noted that Lang­more, 55, is close to mo­bil­ity author­ity ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mike Heili­gen­stein and had been a staff mem­ber for then-state Rep. Mike Krusee, a Wil­liamson County Repub­li­can who car­ried the 2001 leg­is­la­tion that led to the cre­ation of the mo­bil­ity author­ity.

“That is not a prob­lem, per se,” said Shea, who ul­ti­mately voted for the Lang­more ap­point­ment. “But I feel like we don’t need another mem­ber of the club. I think it is cru­cial that we have peo­ple who can push back.”

Gomez said that Lang­more “doesn’t go along to get along. And he looks at the mo­bil­ity of the whole com­mu­nity.”

Lang­more, in an in­ter­view with the States­man, said the mo­bil­ity author­ity, which has bor­rowed more than $1 bil­lion on the bond mar­ket for its var­i­ous projects, legally must abide by the fi­nan­cial con­straints of those loan agree­ments.

“How­ever, just build­ing toll roads will not re­solve Cen­tral Texas’ mo­bil­ity is­sues,” he said. “I would hope that col­lec­tively with the other board mem­bers we would start to look be­yond that.”

JU­LIA ROBIN­SON / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN 2014

John Lang­more, an at­tor­ney and mem­ber of the Cap­i­tal Metro board of di­rec­tors, has been ap­pointed by Travis County com­mis­sion­ers to the board over­see­ing the Cen­tral Texas Re­gional Mo­bil­ity Author­ity.

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